I’ve seen several comments on the masters facebook page and in other venues regarding the discussion of masters regionals and if masters should be trained or treated different than other aged athletes. There appears to be a lot of opinion as to what should be done with the masters. First of all, let’s clarify the nomenclature of what I consider as masters. In any other sport, masters or seniors would generally be considered as anyone over the age of 30. In CrossFit, 40 is the threshold for masters competition. For the purposes of this blog, 40 is the magic number. So, any athlete 40 or over is considered masters.
Let’s take opinion out of the equation. There is a large volume of science on aging which supports that human physiology significantly changes in the fourth decade of life and beyond. There are many proposed reasons for these changes, but no matter the school of thought that you adhere too, there is agreement that the changes exist.
I think we can all agree that not all 40, 50 or 60 year olds are the same, meaning that aging and quality of life are individually specific.
There are several definitions of aging; chronological age, functional age, biological age, psychological, social and training age.
I saw a post by a CF HQ level 1 Trainer and several others which proposed that there should be no difference in how you train the masters versus the younger athlete. There were also several masters athletes who agreed with their supposition. This is obviously a significant area of disagreement. There were over 120 comments on one post over whether HQ should have a CF Masters Certification Course.
My experiential and evidential theory is that there is a need for alternate training and recovery models for masters, and that need is supported by the physiological differences that occur after the age of 40 versus prior age. For any trainer to suppose that there is no difference in the way a masters athlete versus younger athlete should trained, is merely opinion. I’ve trained with crossFit for over 6 years and have experienced the difference just that short timeframe has had on my recovery and response to specific training stimuli.
Here are some of the changes that occur past the age of 40;
Muscle mass loss accelerates after the age of 45
Muscle mass loss causes decrease in RMR, increase in body fat, decrease in aerobic capacity, a reduced blood sugar tolerance and a reduction in bone density
Cardiovascular performance declines by 10% per decade with an acceleration after the age of 50
Connective tissue looses flexibility and elasticity with increased cross-bridging and conversion in collagen. Aging also decreases water content of this tissues
Skin health decreases at a rate of 2% after the age of 30. You might not think that is of significant importance, but remember that your skin is the number one defense mechanism of your immune system
Bone mass decreases .3% per year after the age of 50 in both men and women
Flexibility decreases approximately 20-30% from the age of 30-70
Recovery from muscle damage declines more rapidly after the age of 40
Even though masters athletes are still human, or at least we think we are, there are obviously differences in the physiology of the aging athlete that are not factors at younger ages. My personal experience and the experience of almost every masters athlete I have trained or met, also supports this assertion. Training and recovery of the masters athlete is not necessarily of greater importance than younger ages, because it is of great importance for ALL ages of athletes. But, there is a difference in the approach to training and recovery of the masters athlete that requires an awareness and understanding of human physiology past the age of 40. To assert that there is NO difference in how you develop, transition, and train the older athlete is mere opinion and not supported by science.